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The Long Road Home

Teaching Letter

Encountering the Real Jesus

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All over the world, people have heard of Jesus. He has more than a billion followers today. Even if you don’t believe in Jesus, you must recognize that Jesus is one of the most well-known personalities in history. I recently picked up a book by Jewish author Michael Shapiro entitled The Jewish 100, a Ranking of the Most Influential Jews of All Time.  Predictably, Moses claims the number one slot, but to my surprise, the Jewish author chose Jesus of Nazareth for the number two slot. On another occasion, an Israeli mayor had invited a BFP leadership group to his home for dinner, and he brought up the subject of Jesus, saying he was fascinated by a man who had such influence.

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Guard Your Tongue

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“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” Have you ever heard this seemingly innocent childhood taunt? Perhaps you’ve even used it yourself in response to some unkind phrase or words. Most of us, at some point in our lives, have both said something bad about another person and have had another person say something bad about us. We tend to think that what we said really didn’t hurt the other person, but we also tend to long remember the hurt that another person’s words have caused us. It seems a general truth that we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.

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Hearing and Speaking the Words of God

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It is difficult to deny that we are living in a remarkable time in history, one during which God is fulfilling ancient prophecies at a staggering rate. Since the reestablishment of the state of Israel in 1948, we have seen many of God’s promises to His people fulfilled, displaying His faithfulness but also legitimizing the concept of the prophetic for many in the Church who had previously doubted its viability in our modern world. Today, there is an emphasis, not just on the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, but on individual prophetic gifts as well; we have witnessed the advent of thousands, perhaps millions, of Web sites dedicated solely to the subject of prophecy.

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The Shepherd and His Sheep

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The Bible is full of rich imagery to help its readers better understand deep spiritual truths. One of the oft repeated images is that of a shepherd with his sheep. The prophets spoke of good shepherds and corrupt shepherds. God is referred to as our Shepherd. One of the most beloved of all Psalms, by both Christians and Jews, is Psalm 23. I memorized it as a child, as I am sure many of you did. It communicates the great care that the Lord has for His people. Yeshua (Jesus) referred to Himself as the “good shepherd.” Lately, I have been reflecting on the characteristics of a shepherd. What can we learn from this occupation and the way it is spoken of in the Scripture?

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Dressed for Protection

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From the highest heavens to the deepest ocean, from the smallest insect to the leviathan, our Heavenly Father has often used the world around us to help us know Him better. He is a God whose eyes are continually on His creation, who sees into our hearts, who looks to and fro across the earth…a God to whom vision is important. Since we are created in His image, we are beings who not only rely on our sense of sight, but learn best by seeing. You might say we serve the God of visual aids. His Word is filled with tangible examples of spiritual concepts designed to help us better understand how we should behave or to bring clarity to complicated spiritual concepts. We are told of the advantages of being like a green olive tree in the house of the Lord (Ps. 52:8) or receiving blessing like a tree planted by streams of water (Ps. 1:3).  As His covenant relationship with His people grew and strengthened, He often instructed them by creating other kinds of visual aids that would become a part of daily life and serve as constant reminders of His presence, His love, and His instructions for living.

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The Kingdom of God

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Today, Christian congregations sing songs about “preparing the way.” But are we clear about what we are preparing the way for and how we are to do it? John the Baptist, who appears in the New Testament to prepare the way for Yeshua (Jesus), is a fitting place to start in answering those questions. John’s message, as well as Yeshua’s, was “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2, 4:17). The kingdom of heaven was what they were preparing the people for. What exactly is the kingdom of heaven? If John prepared for it and Yeshua established it, what are we preparing for?

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James: The Guidebook to Holy Living

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Have you ever struggled with the desire to make yourself a better, more successful person? Or perhaps with a difficult relationship? Have you wondered how to cope with a challenging situation such as the loss of your job or stress in the workplace? Or asked yourself who you really are and what your purpose reallyis in life? Well, if you have, you are not alone. These are the four main categories that the current spate of self-help books deal with, and it seems people all over the globe are seeking the same answers. The self-help craze has become big business, with this genre selling somewhere between US $8 and $10 billion per year in America alone, over US $1 billion of that being specifically what is called “Christian self-help.”

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Preparing to Meet with the Lord

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Once a year the staff of Bridges for Peace in Israel goes away for a three-day prayer retreat. It is a special time of meeting with God—a moed (appointment, set-apart time) when we seek the Lord for His direction for the future. In the month before the retreat, we concentrate on preparing ourselves spiritually for this special time and encourage each person to search their heart. In our devotional times, we concentrate on repentance and seeking God. The Friday before we leave for the retreat, the entire management team spends several hours praying for the Lord’s direction and blessing for the staff. This time of preparation is a vital part of the retreat, enabling our team to come before the Lord with a clean heart.

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A Fresh Look At The Priestly Blessing

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 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace”’” (Num. 6:23–26).

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Israel Through Four Lenses

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In Romans 9–11, Paul, Jewish apostle to the Gentiles, treats his mostly non-Jewish audience to the most fully developed theological passage in all of Scripture. And what is he talking about? Israel and the Jewish people, of course! Perhaps there is some importance the Gentile reader of today should ascribe to so weighty a work. Yet, it persists that this very passage is one of the most ignored and misunderstood parts of the Bible. Perhaps this is because there is a mystery going on—the mystery of amazing Israel.

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